Emotional Abandonment: Shut out by your spouse

Written by Dr. Dave Currie and Glen Hoos

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It’s a complaint I hear regularly from people looking for help for their marriages:“I feel distant from my spouse.” “I try to get my husband to open up, but instead he just shuts down.” “My wife just doesn’t seem interested in me anymore. I feel like we’re a million miles apart.” “I don’t know if I love him anymore.”

What we’re talking about here is emotional abandonment. Instead of physically leaving the relationship, your spouse simply checks out emotionally. They stop investing in the marriage, leaving their mate feeling detached and unwanted. To the outside world the situation can still look rosy, but in reality the relationship is dying a slow, quiet death.

How does a marriage reach this point? Sometimes it’s a slow slide into complacency, and other times it’s a little more sudden. Realize that if it’s a sudden abandonment, there likely is some precipitating event or incident between the two of you that needs to be resolved. On the other hand, if the deterioration has been more gradual, there are probably a lot of little things that have gone unresolved and are taking their toll on the relationship.

Here are some of the specific, primary causes of emotional distance between mates:

  1. Unforgiveness. Emotional abandonment is unforgiveness taken to its extreme conclusion. When we feel that our spouse has hurt us and we refuse to forgive them, we look for ways to protect ourselves from being hurt again in the future. Closing off our heart from the other person is an easy way to do this, but it has deadly consequences. Unforgiveness always leads to isolation. Overcoming unforgiveness requires a willingness to humble ourselves and seek forgiveness when we have hurt our spouse, and it also requires that we be willing to graciously extend forgiveness when our spouse has hurt us. This forgiveness step is based on a desire to re-unite.
  2. Callous treatment. When I am careless in how I treat my spouse, it gets old really quickly. Whether it’s discourteousness, unkindness, or something worse, it creates hurt that may start out small, but can grow into deep wounds as it festers over time. To avoid this, each partner needs to look at their own behaviour regularly and consider whether they are treating their spouse well. A mate, above all people, needs to be treated with gentleness and respect. Remember, your spouse is a gift to you, and they deserve to be treated as something precious.
  3. Lack of effort. Sometimes the problem is a little less obvious than unforgiveness or harsh treatment. It is easy, especially for men, to just assume that the relationship is going along just fine, and so we don’t put in as much effort as we once did. We start to take our spouse for granted, leading them to think that they are not important in our lives. When the marriage slips from being one of the top priorities in the heart of one or both spouses, the other person feels abandoned. This causes them to feel unwanted and then to withdraw into their own world.
  4. Lack of time. Many of us simply try to pack too much into a day. Ruled by the urgent, we fail to make time for the truly important: things like romancing, talking about issues and really developing a friendship with our spouse. We stay constantly busy, erasing quality “couple times” from our schedules. A marriage relationship cannot thrive if our contact with one another is limited to a quick bite of supper or a brief chat before bed. A good marriage requires weekly face-to-face time – both talk and fun.
  5. Fear of talking through issues. Emotional detachment does not just happen out of the blue; there is always something behind it. If one or both of the spouses has an inability or fear of talking through the issues in their relationship, then this kind of disconnect will be the likely result. Usually both know there is something wrong, but they are hesitant to bring it up because they fear their spouse’s reaction. Or perhaps they feel like they’ve been through this before and it hasn’t helped, so why bother? In these cases, there needs to be a clear second look at what it means to resolve conflict in a marriage – how to have a “good fight,” as it were, that really bring things to resolution. Without these skills, and a real courage to step up and deal with problems, the emotional distance will just continue to grow.
  6. Living in denial. A lot of times, when things have started to go a bit sideways in the relationship, we don’t want to admit that it’s happening. Often the person truly needing to make some significant changes is most content to deny the existence of any real issues. We kind of live in denial, as if it’s not really happening, or it’s not that bad, or things will get better in time. But living in denial doesn’t fix things; it only causes the marriage to deteriorate to the point where the couple just does not feel close anymore.

Working through emotional distance

The first step to dealing with emotional abandonment is to identify the root cause and to begin to deal with it. Don’t settle for living in isolation. Ask God for more in your marriage and then trust Him as you faithfully try to make changes. Here are some suggestions for re-establishing a loving connection with your spouse:

  1. Agree to talk. At some point you have to agree to talk about the problems that exist between you. If you’re going to resolve issues, there needs to be a mutual commitment to listen to the other person’s concerns and to work towards improving the situation. Don’t corner your spouse with an unexpected lecture, but set a time and agree to start to work through your issues.
  2. Be prepared. Before you have the talk, take the time separately to think through the unresolved issues that you’ll be discussing. What are your concerns in the relationship? In what areas do you feel you need to improve? What are your expectations of your spouse? To put your thoughts down on paper may be best, but either way, be prepared to be open and honest with each other about the real issues between you. Be sure to take the time to really listen to what your spouse is saying. Give each other uninterrupted time to share your view on things.
  3. Be direct but gentle. Neither of you has anything to gain by holding back your true feelings. Remember: unresolved issues lie at the heart of emotional detachment. So lay all your cards out on the table by sharing your hurts clearly. Don’t allow things to get out of hand. Be committed to talk through things sensibly. Take breaks to cool it if necessary but agree to continue. Ask each other the tough questions, and talk through the difficult issues that have been eating away at your relationship. Regardless of which partner initiated the wrong, you both need to work at resolving the problem.
  4. Begin to meet unmet needs. Often a person pulls back from the relationship because, in their mind, their needs are not being met. A healthy marriage demands that both partners actively work to discern the needs of their spouse, and work to meet those needs. Seek to understand your spouse’s needs and ask yourself how you can start to better express love by meeting these needs. Make your spouse and sorting things out your new priority.
  5. Deal with your own stuff. If I am feeling abandoned by my spouse, I need to ask myself a tough question: What have I done to drive my spouse away? Now it may not be only your responsibility. Nevertheless, you have to find out what you are responsible for and take ownership for your actions. Really listen to your spouse. Of course, there are things that your mate needs to deal with, and they may be withdrawing from you for selfish reasons, but that can’t stop you from taking the steps that you know you need to take. Both parties must be prepared to make apologies and extend forgiveness as part of your recovery from the emotional detachment.
  6. Intentionally re-engage. If you are to re-establish your emotional connection, it won’t happen by accident and it won’t happen overnight. You need to agree to make your relationship a priority and spend some quality time together. Plan a few dates and put each other in your schedules. It’s time to re-enter one another’s lives again.
  7. Act kindly. This may not be a revolutionary new idea, but it can have that kind of an effect on your marriage. You must act kindly toward your spouse. Small gestures of warmth, acts of kindness, and efforts to rekindle the romance between you will go a long way toward renewing your bond with one another. Do this from the heart with real commitment to make the necessary changes.
  8. Love unconditionally. Somebody has to break out of the negative cycle of eye-for an eye, poor treatment for poor treatment. You need to step out of the insult-for-insult cycle and respond differently. You cannot control your spouse’s behaviour, but you can control your own. Regardless of how your spouse responds, you must choose to treat them with love. This is not easy to do when your partner is not reciprocating, but it is what you vowed to do when you promised to love each other “for better or for worse.” And nothing breaks down emotional barriers like unconditional love.
  9. Allow God to work. I’m going to challenge you to ask God to change you. God wants your best and He’ll always be ready to take full responsibility for any life that is totally surrendered to Him. That also includes re-engaging with your spouse and getting attached in love again. God wants that and He will guide you in that, if you’ll allow Him to.

We’ve all got issues to work through in our relationships. Whether your problems stem from bitterness, unforgiveness, dishonesty, lack of kindness, unfaithfulness, or something else, God offers you His power to enable you to live in a way that honors Him. There’s no doubt in my mind that God wants your marriage to work and that you desire to have warmth and a close connection with your spouse. That’s His design. Let’s go after it.

Does God care about your love life?

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178 Responses to “Emotional Abandonment: Shut out by your spouse”

  • Doris Beck D. Beck says:

    LeAnn,
    it sounds like both of your love tanks are totally empty. It’s never too late to start over. Look for ways that you can pour into him and as Neglectful said above, ‘make extra deposits into his love tank’. Do you know what his Love Language is? Determining that will help you to know how best to communicate your love to him.

    Don’t give up! Your marriage is worth fighting for. Ask God to soften your hearts and to show you practical ways to reach out to him in new ways. And then sit down with your husband and communicate….let him know that you don’t want to give up but instead want to work through this tough time in your marriage.

    Heavenly Father,
    I pray for LeAnn and ask that you would give her hope for her marriage. Show her how to reach out to her husband and how to fight for her marriage. We know Lord, that you want our marriages to reflect Christ’s relationship with his bride the church…I pray that LeAnn and her husband will recognize the need to put aside past hurts and begin again to fill up each others’ love tanks. Amen

    LeAnn, I hope that Adam’s post above will encourage you that there is always still hope for your marriage and that God still does miracles in our relationships today!

  • Doris Beck D. Beck says:

    Neglectful, good for you for recognizing your part in the state of your relationship! I love what you said, ‘God has recently been shedding light on the dark places of my heart regarding my inner fears, pains and needs that weren’t met. As my heart has been softened toward my partner, I am working really hard to be extra attentive to him in all regards; the extra is my way of apologizing and to make extra deposits into his love tank. ‘

    Keep making those deposits into his love tank, and filling it up! Ask God for help in keeping those lines of communication open, even when it is hurtful for you and your instinct is to pull back. Your relationship will strengthen as you continue to work through those hurtful issues.

  • Michael Jantzen M. Jantzen says:

    Hi Adam, I was really blessed to read your story of such hope and transformation. You have a wonderful testimony to help inspire others to trust in God to restore and heal their marriage. You may want to consider being an online mentor so you could help out other couples in similar situation by just writing a few emails a week. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://thelife.com/challenges/give-back-become-a-mentor Take care, and thanks again for sharing!

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Praise the Lord Adam! That is wonderful to hear how Jesus and the story from a friend can turn a marriage around. I am praying that your story will have a similar impact on other people’s marriages.

  • Adam says:

    **UPDATE** It has been almost one year since I posted my story in these comments below, and a lot has happened. My marriage quickly got worse, before it got better. Within days of my last post, we were throwing the “divorce” word around with my wife making threats about child custody. I was praying, reading Scripture and talking to family members in an effort to just get through each day. Suddenly, an acquaintence of my wife’s (who had heard about our problems) sat her down and said “You need to hear my story before you ruin your marriage”. She proceeded to tell my wife about how she fell into the same pattern/lifestyle of a successful, independent woman, leaving her husband behind to raise the children while she went out, drinking and partying. Her husband, quickly got fed up and left her and took the children with. For the following two years, she went into a deep and dark depression, seeing her children infrequently and missing her best friend and love of her life, her husband. He found out about the hole that she had fallen into and reached out to her in a phone call. He told her that she is still his wife and he still loves her. They reunited, remarried, and both became born-again, faithful Christians. As my wife listened to her story (which I greatly abreviated), she cried. It humbled her and brought her head out of the fog. She came home that day, sat me down and cried and apologized for everything. Overnight, my wife did a complete 180 degree turn. Almost a year later, our marriage is thriving and we are extremely happy. She wants to spend enormous amounts of time with me as well as help raise our children. We make plans and decisions together. Once again, God has answered my prayers in ways that I could have never imagined. And for those of you posting about your situation, PLEASE REALIZE that the Creator answers prayers and that He is in complete control!

  • Neglectful says:

    I appreciate this article very much. I have been the neglectful one and caused my partner deep pain that he has communicated to me from the beginning.

    We have been together for 18 years and are only in our mid 30s. I’ve emotionally detached increasingly over the past 5 years; however, God has recently been shedding light on the dark places of my heart regarding my inner fears, pains and needs that weren’t met. As my heart has been softened toward my partner, I am working really hard to be extra attentive to him in all regards; the extra is my way of apologizing and to make extra deposits into his love tank.

    My concern is that the wounds I have created in him are too deep due to how long I’ve shut him out despite his efforts to reconnect and that my renewed desires for our relationship may be too little, too late. He has become distrustful of me and I absolutely have communication struggles, which are the key ingredients for a failing relationship. I don’t want to hurt him any further and wonder if our relationship will always be damaged, should I let him go now. I would rather we work it out, really work it out, but I have hurt him more than he’s hurt me, so as the offender I am not sure that I have a right to expect anything.

    I am struggling with feeling close to him when the distrust causes him to pull away. Also, while I am communicating more, which requires great effort for me, as soon as he begins addressing too many of his pains I feel overwhelmed and shut down again. My threshold is yet too low to amount to what appears like real progress.

    So far, I am being patient knowing that I have largely caused the problems and resisting the inclinations to pull away emotionally even when my communication fails. I am afraid that I require more patience that he may have and will leave me.

  • LeAnn says:

    After 20 years of marriage, I feel that it is ending. Three years after we were married, he removed his wedding ring and never put it back on. Then over the next several years, he has pushed me away due to the lack of intimacy in which we are both to blame. He hides in his room and doesn’t talk, and I am afraid to even try and converse with him. He will only speak about the children. When I was hurt or sick, no response. I am blamed over & over for his unhappiness in life. One child at home & I feel that is the only reason he stays in the house. He is a good father but shuts me out more & more everyday. We have no intimate bond. I pray all the time for healing. I am very lost and abandoned and do not have anyone to turn to. I try so hard to provide unconditional love & it makes it worse. We do not argue or talk about anything. We live such separate lives now. One day my children will see this hurt but I hide it the best I can.

  • Kate Kate says:

    Dear kimberly and Ebonnie,

    Wow, you are both going through a lot, different, but the pain we share as humans is pain, no matter what. Matters of the heart are so delicate, so I will not say I can give the right answer or even the best answer. I will share what is on my heart, from my own experience.

    I was married for 2.5 years, with my ex-husband for 7 altogether. Before we were married, I could sense a problem. It was quite similar to what Ebonnie described – distance, lack of physical intimacy, making me feel like everything was my fault, telling me not to complain about him to others because I would exaggerate and make him look back. In retrospect, I guess it was passive aggressive, controlling behaviour, but LOVE bound me to him. I loved him more than anything or anyone I could ever have imagined. We went through a lot to be together, and we had made many promises about our intention to make our relationship work.. no matter what. Unfortunately, he could not keep those promises. After we were married things were great for a while.. then the distance, the lack of attention, the ignoring of my feelings, they crept back in. It was terrible, sorrowful, painful…. I would not wish it upon anyone, and eventually he left. He said that he saw he was hurting me and he couldn’t go on together anymore.

    That is what I do not want to happen to you! If you can make it work, it has to be TOGETHER, you have to value the same things, share the same vision… and I believe, have a firm foundation of faith. As a Christian, my dream now is be able to pray with my future husband, to be able to read the bible together, to have mutual respect sufficient to help us wade our way through any deep waters, instead of drown. Where do you see God in your relationship? For me, that is paramount… I realize I am speaking with the benefit of retrospect, which you don’t have… but if you can skip ahead to 5 months or 5 years down the road… ask yourself, if this person doesn’t change, if things get worse instead of better… how will I cope? To whom will I turn? It was a long, hard road for me to trust God, but it is in Him that I am fulfilled, loved, respected, adored, cherished, welcomed, received… and ultimately, in Him that I am being transformed, given a new heart, with scars yes, but refined and nearer to pure than ever before.

    My prayer for you both is that you will meditate upon what it means for God to love us unconditionally.. and then maybe write back to see where that leads you?

    Of course, you can connect with a mentor through our site if you want to correspond with someone privately, who will be a friend during this tough stage of your journey. Click on the blue “talk to a mentor” link at the top right of this page and then you’ll hear back by email.

    God is good, people are broken… in this life we shall have sorrows and suffering, but God has overcome.

    Be blessed in knowing you are LOVED UNCONDITIONALLY!

    warmly,
    Kate

  • Ebonnie says:

    My partner and I have been together for four years now, we are currently planning our wedding we got engaged in September 2012. He has been very emotionally and physically detached from me for the past 6-9months. I have found internet dating sites with his details and photos on them that not even I had seen after questioning him he denied it and said maybe someone hacked his phone or something. We have just got our own house over the past 4 months and he says he loves it we have lived together for the past 3 and a half years and always been very close and intimate. We have gone from having sex daily and over the past year it has dropped off at one stage it had been 5 weeks ( we are young and always have been sexually active together ) currently I basically have to beg him for days to have sex, but it’s still only every 2 weeks. He isn’t so intimate with ne anymore no cuddles, kisses he doesn’t ask me how my day was when he gets home or seem happy to see me. We both work full time but still get a fair bit of time together. Over the past year he has been really secretive with his phone, he says it’s because I check up on him however I didn’t up until recently because I can feel there is something not right about us. Every time I try and talk to him about this and find out what he is feeling he says he is fine in an annoyed voice if I keep questioning he gets really mad and nasty and just turns it into a fight and yells at me, he will then ignore me until I apologize and then act like it is my fault. I truely love him but don’t know what to do. In March 2015 I had an ectopic pregnancy and he never really spoke to me about it as he said it upset him to much but he has spoken to friends that are girls about it and even cried in front of them but he won’t open up to me. I feel horrible I don’t want to leave him because of our past and everything we have been through but I’m at the point that I can’t cope I feel like running away by myself. I am not close with any of my family and don’t have a lot of close friends that I could talk to about this. He always tells me not to tell anyone about our fights or he will get madder. I truely get scared he might hurt me one day in one of his tempers, I feel like it’s my fault because I couldn’t give him his baby and possibly won’t get pregnant again in the future but at the same time I know I can’t help it. Please help me I just want to feel loved and wanted and respected again.

  • kimberly says:

    first I would like to point out that I am in a same sex marriage. my wife and I have been together for a year. just recently we hit rock bottom and could no longer live together due to financial issues. she had lost her job that required a lot of traveling and when she was let go from her job she was closer to home which is in Georgia. we lived in Kansas together. when she went home I did not anticipate her to be gone this long. it has been four months since ive seen her. we have decided to build our own foundations so we will be able to live a comfortable life together. we don’t have the funds for me to move to Georgia with her so she is staying with her family and im in Kansas with mine. lately She has not been talking to me. I text her throughout the day with no response, she no longer tells me good morning or good night. I try to call her every once in a while and she does not answer. I find myself constantly looking at my phone to see if she has text me and when she calls I instantly pick up. I feel as though I’m putting more effort into this relationship and all she has to say is that we need to get our life back in order. my question is, since we are trying to get back on our feet does that mean we have to forget about our marriage in the process? I feel as though she does not care and she just wont talk to me about anything and im trying so hard to get her to open up to me but she has changed since she went home. what am I to do? do I give up and move on or keep trying to get through to her that im still here and I still love her more than anything?

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Dear Father God
    Lord I lift up any who are struggling within this area in there marriage.
    I pray that You will bring comfort and healing on those who are struggling.
    In Jesus Mighty Name Amen

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi Victim of sister-in-law crime, I am sorry to hear that you are facing such a hard situation with your husband and his sister. Usually a husband will support his wife and defend her but it sounds like your husband is supporting and defending his sister instead. From what you’ve written it sounds like this has been going on for a long time. Is there anyone in the family that you can talk to about this? Would any of your relatives stand up for you? You shouldn’t have to compete with your sister in law for your husband’s attention. In marriage you chose each other, I wonder what has thrown off the balance of your family relationships?

    You said that your husband would not go to therapy. Would it be possible for you to see a therapist on your own? A professional might be able to give you some insight into your situation and offer some strategies to better communicate with your husband. It could be that he does not see how his actions affect you or it could be that there is some other reason why he acts this way.

    If you would like someone to talk to we have mentors available. You can use this form to contact a mentor and you’ll get an email back, usually within a couple of days. Mentoring is a free and private service and you can talk to your mentor about anything and for as long as you like.

    Do you and your husband share the same faith background? Is your church able to help with the issues you’re having at home?

  • Victim of sister-in-law crime says:

    Hi- my husband and I have been married for 3 yrs. I’m a homemaker- the first year brought to the fore a lot of compatibility issues stemming primarily from the fact that my husband had lived alone for 9 years until then, so he continued to do things on his own, eg, running, biking, gymming, watching tv….. on a daily basis. Amidst all this, his sister(unmarried and older) moved to our city(for the job that my husband got her) and to this day continues to live across the street from us. On countless occasions right from the beginning she has pounded me with statements as follows:
    “you are buying groceries for me? This is not your money, it’s my brother’s money!!”
    “Ask my brother to not talk on the fone while driving”
    “Don’t feed my brother oily and spicy food”
    “Tell him not to work out too much”
    “Don’t let him stay up late at nite”
    “My brother does not pose for pictures putting his arm around me as he does with you!”
    “Don’t let him swim in the ocean- he’s your responsibilty now”
    Apart from these, she always complains to him about not having money to buy the things tht I do for our house. She rarely compliments me for how I look after my house and my husband, but everytime she comes over, she lusts after buying tr same items that I have throughout our apartment, for which my husband provides her the finances.
    She once spent $50 on groceries for us when my husband had an accident during the 1st yr of our marriage- my husband immediately wrote her a check for $100.
    She once treated us to some junk food and my husband immediately bought her groceries for 2ce the amount.
    We bought an hdtv last yr for $1700, and my husband (for the 1st time in 9 yrs) booked a $2400 business class ticket for his mother to visit his sister. We bought a couch too last year (coz our futon was busted), and she had been lusting after a couch for herself.
    Rverytime she meets my husband, she completrly forgets to greet me or talk to me until I initiate a “hi”. Most of those times, she even doesn’t hear me too well so completely ignores me. It hurts me to be so disrespected in my own house, and my husband has never tried corrected any if the wrings coz he staunchly refuses to confront her about any of her words or behavior. As a result, I am left with too much past hurt that has left me scarred enuf to start disliking my husband. Without his support, it is getting suffocating coming to terms with the possibility that the sister will be right in front of us for as long as we are alive, coz she depends on my husband financially, emotionally… she equates her relationship with her brother to that of a husband which is disgusting at times. Everytime i try to bring up his sister’s words or actions towards me, he yells and storms out, gives me the silent treatment for days on end and threatens to end our marriage.. The last 2 yrs have been great between my husband and me, EXCEPT for his sister. I must also mention, that he and his sister were cut off from each other for 5 years. She also did not attend our wedding coz she had lost her job in the US and was at the time producing fake salary slips to keep her US visa current. I do not know the reason for their 5-yr fallout.
    I only need say a word against his sister or how i feel about her ill treatment and hatred towards me, and he lashes out at me verbally with the most vicious and venomous words a wife can hear. I have been constantly depressed, hopeless about our marriage, and feel aot of resentment on account of his sister. Besides, my husband is not a communicator as a husband- we do not take any decisions as a couple nor do we discuss or find solutions to any problems coz he does not believe in talking about anything other than movies, restaurants or his work.
    He refuses to go for counseling and has sworn to never go for it.
    If only he supported me regarding his sister, i would be in a better place and be able to concentrate on our future together than sulk away to glory.
    Pls tell me how to bring my husband to see her evil ways and ill intentions.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Laura, This sounds like a really challenging situation. I’m so sorry to hear of your Mom’s passing. It sounds like you’ve been very honest with your husband and he has chosen to withdraw. You mentioned that he’s been dealing with porn lately and has been focussed on an ex-girlfriend. It could be that his issues have very little to do with what you shared but he’s using them as an excuse. I was shocked to read that he told you that you were, “incapable of seeing it from a higher intellectual plateau”. That’s a mean thing to say. Does he use language like that with you often?

    You mentioned that you thought about going to counselling but your husband talked you out of it. Counselling could be a very positive step for you. Ask him if he would come with you. If he will, fantastic. If he won’t, consider going by yourself. A counsellor can help you work through what is going on in a positive way. It must be very confusing for you to hear that your husband wants to stay with you but claims not to love you. A counsellor should be able to help with that. You mentioned that your husband has withdrawn from you physically, have you been able to talk to him at all about why that has happened? Do you think that could be related to his use of porn?

  • Laura says:

    Today, my husband let me know he no longer loves me and that he feels justified in that. We’ll have been married for a year on October 21st, but with all that we’ve gone through it feels like 10 years.

    The emotional distance between us did happen suddenly, about 6 weeks ago. My mother was terminally ill and she died last month. This brought up a lot of emotional issues I had from my childhood. I said I was going to go to therapy, but my husband talked me into working through these things with him, he lead me to believe he could handle it. So I shared about the hurt I had gone through, and about the resulting fear of loss and defensiveness. We did have some arguments that got pretty irrational at times, but he acted supportive enough that I didn’t think this was a big deal. After all of this, the emotional distance began. He decided he didn’t like what I had shared, and told me he found my emotional world “unappealing”.

    I have presently done a lot of healing from the issues I was dealing with before, but my husband still seems to get more and more distant from me. We used to talk about everything (even psychological issues, as is evident) – now I can barely get him to open up and have a discussion about how he feels. He has also ceased to have any physical contact with me. He’s been really into porn lately, and has been obsessing over his ex girlfriend, who has let him know she’s over him and that she’s happy with her new partner.

    Today, when I confronted him about his actions, he told me that he saw nothing wrong with the way he behaved. He told me that the causality of the situation lead him to lose his feelings for me, and that maybe they’d come back when I had completely gone through my healing. I expressed that this seemed unfair and immature, and he told me I just was incapable of seeing it from a higher intellectual plateau. I asked him if he was still interested in our relationship, and he told me he knows I am the one he wants to spend his life with. So, I’m kind of at a loss knowing that no relationship can last with this sort of continuous emotional detachment, but also that we both still want to stay together.

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Dear Reba,

    So sorry to hear about the relational breakup that you are currently facing between you and your husband. At times anger is a good thing for it allows the other individual that their misconduct is not acceptable and that their choices have actually hurt us dearly as in the case of your husband leaving the family unit and having and affair. However, it is good to hear that you have been effectively dealing with the hurt, anger, forgiveness issues, and even owning up to your part of the problem. Truly, God has been working on your heart through all this and trust that He will also work on your husband’s heart as well as you continue to pray on his behalf. The Bible says, “The righteous cry out, and the Lords hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:17-18)

    You mentioned that you both have been emotionally distance for at least 10 months previously. Did something take place that caused this emotional tear between the two of you? Do you think your husband would be open to seeking some marital counseling that would help to rebuild your commitment to one another?

    At this time I would like to pray for you:

    Father God, I pray on behalf of Reba and her husband. I ask that You would continue to work in Reba’s heart and allow her to continue to build solid relationships with You and those around her. I ask that Your Holy Spirit would begin to work in her husband’s heart in making him aware of Reba’s love for him and the desire to see his return. I pray that You would give Reba the right words to use when speaking to her husband regarding this situation and the possibility of working things out. I believe that You desire and love to see marriages thrive and I ask that You work within this marriage in bringing them back together. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen

  • Reba says:

    This is what happened to my marriage. We’ve been married for 22 years and my husband unexpectedly walked out 9 months ago. We had been emotionally distance for at least 10 months previously, but I was actively looking forward to reconnecting last summer when our kids were gone. I talked about it a lot and looked forward it, I think it was too much pressure and my husband left the day our kids left for the summer and we were supposed to start our alone time. He also started an affair the month he left. I was really angry for months afterwards and his detachment was complete probably based on my anger. Now he is hardly there for our two kids and we rarely communicate. It’s very much out of character because he was an actively involved parent. I’ve worked on myself a lot and have sent him a letter owning my part of the demise of our relationship. I was emotionally distant from him also, but I never wanted out of our marriage. I think I could forgive his affair and I desperately want my family back. But I don’t know how to ever reconnect with him again. We’ve not talked about getting a divorce, we just don’t talk about much anymore. I feel like my old self in many ways now and it’s good. My anger has dissipated in many ways and all other relationships in my life have thrived. I just miss my husband and want us to heal together.

  • Kate Kate says:

    Dear Betsy,

    My heart goes out to you. It seems like a confusing and very difficult situation. It is very tough to be vulnerable and then feel rejected or put off. I want to pray for you now:

    Dear Lord, thank You for Betsy. Thank You for the hard work she has done in reflecting on her own past and for her desire to make her marriage work. I pray that You would continue to lead her and guide her, to show her the way forward, and for her trust in You to grow. Lord, so often we think we know what is best and when, but one thing I have learned is that Your plan is greater. I pray for Betsy to experience an increase in faith, and for You to draw her closer to Yourself, to learn to rely upon You. I pray also for her husband, since You know his heart and care for him. Please help them to be sensitive and compassionate toward one another, to be patient and to endure, and to keep running the race that is before them and not give up. I pray this in Jesus’ name, thank You Father. Amen.

    Betsy, we have private online mentors available to encourage you through this season and to pray for you. If you like, a mentor will contact you via email. Here is the link: http://powertochange.com/experience/talk-to-a-mentor/

    Betsy, if anyone knows your pain, it is Jesus.

    He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
    and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
    (Isaiah 53:3 ESV)

    Do you trust Jesus to care for you? He will never lead you astray and will never have mixed feelings about you. He loves you and is always with you, and desires to be closer in relationship with you.

    Many blessings,

    Kate

  • Betsy says:

    My husband and I have been apart for three years trying to make the marriage work and fix a lot of past hurts. I have finally arrived at a place where I am ready to be in the marriage and I have apologized to him for many situations which happened in the past that I believe were very much my fault, but I was too angry at the time to see and understand the full picture. He begged me to work on myself, and I have. He knows I have changed, but at the same time, now that I am willing to start the marriage again, HE is feeling outrage and pushing back, saying very hurtful things and changing his mind on a day to day basis. He wanted this marriage for years and supported me, but now that I’m ready, is emotionally distant and tell me he has changed his mind about wanting to be with me…which he will take back a few days later. In order to be with him, I have to move across the country into his apartment, so it’s a big deal as we no longer live in the same city due to his work transfer. Anyway, it’s so hurtful to talk with him on the phone and hear him not want to explain any details of his day other than exactly what he did for maybe 5 minutes, and then get off the phone, not allowing for any real connection to take place. All I can do is pray and hope he can reconnect with his desire and love for me that lasted up until very recently, when I made the commitment to be with him and to quit my job and relocate..

  • B. Miller Brenda Miller says:

    Adam, thank you for sharing the pain that your wife’s behaviour choices are creating deep in your heart. I am very well aware of how hurtful it is when one’s spouse turns away from the commitments made at the altar for selfish reasons, and I am deeply sorry that you are experiencing such wounding. Would you consider speaking to your pastor to receive counsel, as well as support and encouragement for yourself at this tremendously difficult time in your life and marriage?

    Most of all, Adam, if your wife is refusing to communicate with you, and she is not indicating that her behaviour is acting out based on any upset in the home for which you are able to make amends,(please understand that I am in no way suggesting that it is appropriate to sin and place the blame on anyone other than ourselves), I urge you to do everything possible to avoid isolating and to care for your spiritual needs as the Lord Jesus guides you to do through His indwelling Holy Spirit as you continue to seek Him. I encourage you to continue drawing close to God and relying on Him to sustain you, for truly, He is your Anchor and your Rock and your ever-present Help in this time of trouble. Please feel free to go to the following link and request the help of one of our online mentors, as well, if you would like to do so, and someone will contact you securely and confidentially:

    http://powertochange.com/experience/talk-to-a-mentor/

  • Adam says:

    Brenda, my 39 year old wife’s issue has little to do with any loss that may have occurred as a child. The fact of the matter is she has a new career, making quite a bit of money as a drug rep, out in the field. Her new independence has empowered her to want freedom to go out late at night drinking with friends, while lying to me, shutting me out, and leaving me at home to raise our children. Any negative feelings from me, cause her to lash out… possibly from guilt? or maybe coping with denial? Regardless, my children and I are collateral damage. I pray that God softens her heart and brings her to her senses before this gets really ugly.

  • B. Miller Brenda Miller says:

    Adam, I am sorry to hear that you are having this pain in your marriage. Are you aware of anything in your wife’s past that could be triggering her to be fearful of your sadness? Is there some significant sense of loss there that could lead her to link your sadness to something deeply painful? Only by being able to draw her out will the two of you be able to resolve this issue, Adam, and that will probably take great patience on your part, as well as much reassurance on your part of your love for your wife, as well as your willingness to walk with her through whatever she is experiencing that is leading her to react in anger to your feelings of sadness. Let her know that no matter what the problem is that is creating her pain, you love her and desire to work it through because you love her and are committed to your marriage for eternity. However, it is so important for your own health, Adam, as well as for the health of the marriage, that you do not bury your emotions.

    You mention, Adam, that Scripture and prayer are the only things keeping you from falling off the deep end at this point. Do you have a pastor with whom you could share your pain and from whom you could seek counsel? Also, if you would like to speak individually to a mentor on our site, please feel free to go to the following link, and someone will contact you privately and confidentially:

    http://powertochange.com/experience/talk-to-a-mentor/

    I pray that you and your wife are able to get to the root of what is bothering her and creating a wall between the two of you, Adam.

  • Adam says:

    I read the article and was shocked at how accurately portrays my relationship with my wife of 18 years. Recently, she has become completely emotionally detached from me for reasons unknown and I am having a terrible time dealing with it. She acts like everything is just fine until I mention that I am sad; at which time she lashes out and threatens divorce. She keeps asking me if I am “OK” but threatens divorce if my answer is anything but “Yes”. So now, I have to lie (which I hate doing!) about my feelings to placate her. We have three beautiful little children and I love my wife and do not want to lose her or have my family broken up. Prayer and Scripture have been the only thing keeping me from falling off the deep end. Any advice, help, counsel, ANYTHING is appreciated!

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    That is so cool Russell; it takes real honesty to be open to how I contribute to the problems in relationships. I am praying that your kitchen table meeting leads to radical changes in your marriage.

    Heavenly Father, I pray for Russell and his wife as they embark on this journey of mutual honesty and connection. I ask that You would help Russell to communicate effectively how he has contributed to the detachment in their marriage. I pray that his wife would be able to hear and understand what he is saying and that would help her to recognize her own contribution. Guide them to new depths in their love for one another and bind their hearts together in love and openness. Amen

  • Russell says:

    Found your article with a simple Google search born from near absolute despair: ‘why is my wife so detached?’. After reading the entire article it was clear to me that i too am a major contributor to our mutual detachment. Before reading I would have readily laid all of the blame on my wife. Now a different perspective has opened before me. Thank you for that and for the outlined steps for me follow. Despair has now given way to hope as I look forward to inviting her to our first kitchen table meeting.

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Dear Robbin, Glad that you found this article to be of help. Sorry to hear that you and your husband are having a rough time right now, perhaps the both of you might consider seeing a marriage counselor or to speak with your pastor regarding the issues you are both facing. In the meantime, I hope that you and your husband will take the time to work through some of the nine suggested steps in re-establishing a loving connection with your spouse.

    Do you have a close girl friend or two to talk and share your concerns? If things remain troublesome for you, we have private online mentors available to encourage you through this season of heartache. A mentor will contact you via email.

    Here is the link: http://powertochange.com/experience/talk-to-a-mentor/

    I pray that God’s peace and comfort blanket you at this time vulnerable time. In Jesus’ name, Amen

  • robbin says:

    This article was a great read I am going though this with my husband who has shut me out. I cry every day thinking that it will get better each day because harder and harder.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Trell, I am not sure what you mean by “mate”. Are you married? Is this a title for a friend? And when you say, “I don’t give in to him physically” are you talking about sexual intimacy or some other physical demnads that he puts on you?

    Thanks for helping me understand.

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